Eight people who were part of a team sent to educate villagers in south-eastern Guinea about Ebola have been found dead after they were attacked by angry locals, the government says.
The bodies were recovered from the septic tank of a primary school in the village of Wome, government spokesman Albert Damantang Camara said.
“It’s very sad and hard to believe but they were killed in cold blood by the villagers,” he said, adding that he would do everything in his power to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The victims, said to include local health officials and journalists, had been missing ever since their delegation was pelted with stones during an outreach visit on Tuesday.
At least 21 people were wounded during the unrest, according to local police.
It was not immediately clear what prompted the violence, but the spread of Ebola has been accompanied by fear and paranoia by villagers who feel the government and international community cannot be trusted.
Many Guineans believe local and foreign health care workers are part of a conspiracy which either deliberately introduced the outbreak, or invented it as a means of luring Africans to clinics to harvest their blood and organs.
“The villagers violently attacked the delegation led by the governor, Lancei Conde, with stones and sticks,” said police lieutenant Richard Haba.
Protesters thought the outreach team had come “to kill them because they think Ebola is nothing more than an invention of white people to kill black people”, he said.
A delegation led by the Health Minister Remy Lamah travelled on Wednesday to the town, in the forested region of southern Guinea at the epicentre of the outbreak, to restore calm.
The epidemic emerged in Guinea at the start of the year and has killed 600 Guineans out of a total death toll across four African nations of more than 2600.